Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Audiobooks for family listening with older children (ages 9 - 12)

Do your older children enjoy audiobooks?  There are some wonderful productions for older children.  What sets these apart for older children is their emotional depth and captivating stories.  Below I've focused on two that are particularly appealing for girls who like realistic fiction.  For kids who like fantasy or adventure, I'd highly, highly recommend Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld's newest book, reviewed here.

by Cynthia Lord
narrated by Jessica Almasy
MD: Recorded Books, 2007
length: 4 hours 1 minute
ages 9 - 12
Twelve-year-old Catherine loves her younger brother, David, but she's embarrassed by his autistic behavior.  She knows that she has to go to extra lengths to help him, but she's also angry that her parents focus on David more than her. In an effort to make life more manageable for David, Catherine creates rules for him (It's okay to hug Mom but not the clerk at the video store).  Really, she's trying to make life predictable.  But what she learns through the course of this story is that life is anything but predictable.

I adored the audiobook for this 2007 Newbery Honor Book.  Jessica Almasy captures Catherine's voice and tween attitudes perfectly.  As AudioFile writes, "Her (Catherine's) stream-of-consciousness thoughts are resonant, and listeners can effortlessly embrace her struggles.  Adult voices are clearly differentiated from the preteens', allowing keen visualization of Catherine's struggle to separate herself from her parents' expectations." 

You can download Rules to your computer, iPod or MP3 player from Audible, and easily  make CDs for yourself.  You can also find Rules at your local public library.  Since it's published by Recorded Books, it's difficult to buy through bookstores.

When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
narrated by Cynthia Holloway
NY: Random House / Listening Library, 2009
length: 4 hours 19 minutes
ages 9 - 12
Have you ever finished a book and wanted to start reading it all over again, it was so intriguing?  When I read Rebecca Stead's new novel, When You Reach Me, I was fascinated and gripped by the ending.  I didn't see it coming, and I just wanted to start all over again.  My daughter and I loved its combination of a realistic friendship story with a fantasy twist.

Sixth-grader Miranda's world is turning upside down.  Her best friend Sal doesn't want to talk to her, for some inexplicable reason. Now Miranda (Mira for short) must find a new best friend at school. And tiny, mysterious notes start turning up in private places, like the pocket of her winter coat that's been in the closet since last March. The notes say things like “I am coming to save your friend’s life and my own” and “You will want proof. 3 p.m. today: Colin’s knapsack.” Miranda doesn’t know who is writing these things or where they are coming from but it is absolutely clear that the person who wrote the notes knows things that no one could know.  Narrator Cynthia Hollaway manages to convey Miranda's confusion with these notes in a way that makes the listener care about her discoveries and her worries about her friendships. 

Try listening to a sample of When You Reach Me to see if you connect with this narrator's voice:

You can download When You Reach Me from Audible, buy the CDs on Amazon, or find them at your local public library.  There is much speculation that this might win the 2010 Newbery Award.

Readers have suggested some other great books for older children:
- Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne, narrated by Jim Dale (same narrator as Harry Potter) "One of the best narrations on the planet.  Every character is easily identifiable and the accents were perfect."
- The Graveyard Book, written and narrated by Neil Gaiman - winner of 2009 Newbery Award, creepy but utterly fascinating - see my review here to hear Gaiman's delicious voice


  1. I had the exact same feeling when I finished Stead's book! I was ready to read it again. I was also feeling as if I didn't want to finish it because I didn't want to let go of the characters. I'm in total agreement with Newbery talk. Thanks for sharing a great title!

  2. Lara, it's so nice to read when someone has the same reaction to a book - isn't it??! It was full of so many wonderful characters, and the clues put together so deftly. I really didn't guess who the person leaving the notes was until the end. Wonderful story. I loved sharing it with my 10 year old.